The Camden Haven

Legendary People

Nancy-Bird Walton – Aviator

Nancy Bird Walton was born in Kew in 1915 and she wanted to fly almost as soon as she could walk. As a teenager during the Depression in Australia, Nancy Bird found herself in the same position as many other children of the time, leaving school at 13 to assist her family.  In 1933, at the age of 18, her passion drove her to take flying lessons. Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who was the first man to fly across the mid-Pacific, had just opened a pilots’ school near Sydney, and she was among his first pupils. Most women learned to fly for recreation, but Nancy planned to fly for a living. She was a pioneering Australian aviator and was the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association.

In the 1930s, defying the traditional role of females of her time, she became a fully qualified pilot at the age of 19, and became the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot’s licence.

Nancy bought her first aircraft, a de Havilland Gipsy Moth. In 1935, she was hired to operate the service, named the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme. Bird’s own Gipsy Moth was used as an air ambulance. She bought a better-equipped aircraft, and began covering territory not yet reached by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She told others that it was rewarding but lonely work.

In 1936, Nancy Bird entered an air race from Adelaide to Brisbane, and won the Ladies’ Trophy. After the war, Nancy began training women in skills needed to back up the men flying in the Royal Australian Air Force. She was 24 when she married an Englishman, Charles Walton, and had two children. He preferred to call her “Nancy-Bird” rather than “Nancy”, and she became generally known as “Nancy-Bird Walton”. In 1950, she founded the Australian Women Pilots’ Association (AWPA),whe re she remained president for five years. In 1958, she decided to return to flying after a twenty year absence.

Throughout her life Walton was notable for her support of charities and people in need. This generous spirit saw her invested as an Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1966. She was later appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. She was the starting block for generations of female pilots and was never involved in an accident, despite the risks of early aviation.

The National Trust of Australia declared her an Australian Living Treasure in 1997.  Nancy died in 2009 at the age of 93.

The first Airbus A380 delivered to Qantas was named in her honour.  Her name on the A380 was originally written “Nancy Bird Walton”, but Qantas respected her preference for the hyphenation that her late husband used (“Nancy-Bird”), and the hyphen was added before the aircraft’s naming ceremony.

Henry Kendall – Poet

Thomas Henry Kendall was a nineteenth-century Australian author and bush poet, who was particularly known for his poems and tales set in a natural environment setting.  Kendall was once regarded as the finest poet Australia had produced and he remains a true poet whose clarity and sweetness have not been excelled in the narrow lyrical field he made his own.

His life was termultuous but he was well received by his fellow writers, George Gordon McCrae, Marcus Clarke, Adam Lindsay Gordon and others, but Kendall had none of the qualities of a successful journalist, though some of his work was accepted by the press and George Robertson published his second volume, Leaves from Australian Forests, soon after his arrival. The poem ‘Bell-Birds‘, one of Australia’s best-known poems, was published in that volume.

He died at the age of only 43 after living in Grafton and then the Camden Haven region for a short period with his family.  The town of Kendall is named after him and there is a poets walk in the village and a statue in his memory.

A street in Elwood, Victoria was also named after him and in Campbelltown, Padstow Heights and Heathcote . Henry Kendall Street in West Gosford is home to the stone building (now a museum) where he lived for some time with the Fagans (timber merchants who took him in and later took him to Grafton).

As Alfred Stephens wrote ‘His gift of melodious writing makes his verses memorable’. He was an excellent swimmer and horseman that loved the Australian bush. In 1886 a memorial edition of his poems was published at Melbourne.

Poems by Henry Kendall